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History of The Open

Ground-breaking Champions


The countries with just one Open winner

Francesco Molinari celebrates winning The 147th Open at Carnoustie

In The Open’s illustrious 163-year history, players of 15 different nationalities have secured the honour of being named the Champion Golfer of the Year.

The United States, Scotland and England are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the countries to boast the most winners, while there have also been multiple Champions from Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Jersey, the birthplace of The Open’s most successful player, Harry Vardon.

However, seven players hold the distinction of being the only men from their respective nations to have lifted the Claret Jug.

We look at the history-making golfers whose achievements have yet to be matched by their compatriots.

Arnaud Massy

The magnitude of Massy’s Open triumph, at Royal Liverpool in 1907, was only increased by the passage of time. Not only was the Frenchman the first overseas winner of the Championship, it would be another 72 years before Seve Ballesteros became the next player from Continental Europe to prevail.

In a period dominated by the Great Triumvirate of Vardon, James Braid and JH Taylor, Massy sensationally outplayed all three men to triumph by two strokes with a score of 312. He also made a play-off at Royal St George’s in 1911, only for Vardon to win comfortably.

France has twice come agonisingly close to celebrating a second Open winner. Jean van de Velde famously fell just short at Carnoustie in 1999, when he triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole before losing out to Paul Lawrie in a play-off, while Thomas Levet was the runner-up to Ernie Els at Muirfield three years later when extra holes were once again required.

Arnaud Massy, the first overseas Champion Golfer of the Year

Bob Charles

A putting masterclass in The 92nd Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1963 helped Charles become New Zealand’s only Champion Golfer to date.

Charles overcame Phil Rodgers in what would prove the Championship’s last 36-hole play-off, after both men had finished on three under par, a solitary stroke clear of Jack Nicklaus.

In the play-off, Charles was red-hot on the greens and ultimately finished eight shots ahead of Rodgers. As well as being the first New Zealander to win The Open, he was also the first left-handed player to triumph. Phil Mickelson followed suit exactly 50 years later.

Charles went on to suffer play-off heartbreak at Carnoustie in 1968 and on his return to Lytham the following year. Since then, Simon Owen and Michael Campbell have come the closest to earning another win for New Zealand. Owen was tied-second behind Nicklaus at St Andrews in 1978, while Campbell finished one shot out of the eventual play-off at the same venue in 1995.

Roberto De Vicenzo

Sixty years on from Massy’s historic success, Royal Liverpool crowned another champion from a country that had never previously tasted Open glory, as De Vicenzo claimed a hugely popular win in 1967.

The Argentinian boasted a superb record in the Championship, having finished between second and fourth in seven of his first 10 appearances.

Victory had proved elusive in that period, but De Vicenzo finally triumphed at Hoylake aged 44, holding off defending champion Nicklaus and Gary Player in the final round to seal a two-stroke victory.

A contemporary of De Vicenzo, Antonio Cerda, also came close to lifting the Claret Jug, finishing second in 1951 and 1953 during a run of seven successive top-10 finishes.

Jose Jurado was another Argentine runner-up in 1931, while Andres Romero charged into the lead with a stunning final-round showing at Carnoustie in 2007, only to miss out on a play-off by a stroke thanks to a double-bogey, bogey finish.

Roberto De Vicenzo lifts the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 1967

Seve Ballesteros

Spain has had no shortage of world-class players. Jose Maria Olazabal and two-time Open runner-up Sergio Garcia have each won the Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez has recorded top-four finishes in three majors and won 21 European Tour titles, and many would anticipate the richly talented Jon Rahm claiming one of the game’s biggest prizes sooner rather than later.

However, for the time being at least, the great Ballesteros remains the country’s only Open Champion.

Ballesteros lifted the Claret Jug on three occasions, his two successes at Lytham in 1979 and 1988 coming either side of a victory at St Andrews in 1984 that featured one of the most iconic celebrations in golfing history, as a joyous Seve punched the air with glee after birdieing the last.

His first win at Lytham came at the age of 22 – and he had remarkably shared second place at Royal Birkdale three years earlier. By the time he returned to England’s north-west coast to claim a third Open title, he was firmly established as one of the greatest and most charismatic players in golfing history.

Nick Price

The runner-up to Ballesteros in 1988 was Nick Price, who had also come up just short in 1982, a shot adrift of five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson.

After twice coming so close to victory, the Zimbabwean secured the Claret Jug in stunning fashion at The 123rd Open in 1994.

Jesper Parnevik looked set to prevail at Turnberry, but the Swede was dramatically overhauled as he bogeyed the final hole and Price followed a birdie at 16 with a sensational eagle on the 17th.

Not content with claiming his second major title, Price also won the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills a month later.

Henrik Stenson

Having watched on as Parnevik came agonisingly close to securing Sweden’s maiden major title, Stenson earned a runner-up finish of his own in 2013, coming second to Phil Mickelson in The 142nd Open at Muirfield.

The roles were reversed three years later as Stenson triumphed at Royal Troon, winning by three strokes with a record score of 20 under par after he and Mickelson had both excelled in a duel reminiscent of the famed Duel in the Sun between Watson and Nicklaus.

Mickelson’s 66 on the final day was superb, but Stenson equalled the best round in Open history at the time with a sublime 63, delivering a first major to a country that has produced a host of fine players.

Francesco Molinari

At Carnoustie in 2018, much focus understandably centred on Tiger Woods as the rejuvenated three-time Champion Golfer of the Year moved into serious contention for a first major crown in 10 years.

Woods briefly claimed the lead on Sunday, but it was ultimately his playing partner, Molinari, who emerged as the class of the field with a magnificent display under pressure.

In challenging conditions, Molinari reeled off 13 pars in a row as a number of rivals faltered, before kicking for the winning post with birdies at 14 and 18. He finished two clear of Kevin Kisner, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele, with Woods a shot further back.

Prior to Molinari’s victory, the closest Italy had come to an Open winner was in 1995, when Costantino Rocca holed a memorable long putt to force a play-off with John Daly at St Andrews, only for the American to prevail.